Poems from Hurt Into Beauty
I want to say something about the names—
Ahmed, Fuad, Tarek, Toufic—
that are in the news these days—
Yusif, Anwar, Umar, Ismael—
and the way the newscasters have had
to practice pronouncing them. Abdul, Amar, Abu,
Muqtada al-Sadr. Don’t you just
love saying, “Muqtada al-Sadr”?
If you lined up all the names and just
said them, one after the other,
it would sound like you were fluent
in Arabic. You could pull one over
on your friends down at the pub:
lubricate your tongue with a few beers,
then turn to Geoff or Bill or Steve, and say,
“Muqtada al-Sadr Ahmed Fuad
Abdul Abu Umar Muhammed,” and just
wait for a reaction. Chances are
a painful silence would swallow the pub whole,
because everyone would think you had been praying,
or reciting a poem, or a fatwa, when in fact
all you were doing was saying the names,
just lining them up and one by one
firing off those frighteningly beautiful names.
I’ve always wanted to be
excused. From the table.
From school. From work.
From life, actually.
I don’t feel well, may I be
excused from feeling?
I’ve always wanted to get
out of things. Downright
Houdiniesque. I’d like
to get out of this body. I don’t
remember how I got in.
I’d like to go by climbing
your body. Down your body and out
of my body. I think that’s how
we get here in the first place.
I don’t remember the first place.
I’d like to go back there though.
Excuse me if I elbow,
shoulder, knee. Excuse me if I
worm my way out of the crowded
now. We either go by breaking
into blossom, or by wilting
in place, the latter being so
heartbreaking, you have to look
away. You have to look away.
Throwing Snowballs at Cars
From our little redoubt
up on the hill
we lobbed our redoubtable
arsenal of white
one by one over the hedges
for the gratifying
on the roofs and hoods of the passing
who mostly just kept trundling dumbly
through the purely perfect-for-packing
driven snow. But once
an innocent in a beat-up pickup
stopped. And stayed there. Idling. Fuming.
We froze. Our fingers and toes
twitching. Our hearts racing. Our noses
running. Finally he drove off, but he doubled
back around, and routed our little
redoubt. And there's no doubt
he would have beaten the shit out of us
if he caught any of us—
but we dispersed
like a burst snowball ourselves,
and melted into the neighborhood
like so many scared shitless
snowflakes, no two of us exactly